Pakistan sets up new directorate for ‘religious education’ 

In this picture taken on October 19, 2020 Islamic seminary students stand outside the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak. (AFP)
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Updated 14 October 2021

Pakistan sets up new directorate for ‘religious education’ 

  • Development comes days after PM Imran Khan announced Rehmatul-lil-Aalameen Authority 
  • Dr. Ghulam Sarwar appointed head of “Directorate General of Religious Education”

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani government has notified the establishment of a new directorate for “religious education” and appointed Dr. Ghulam Sarwar as its head. 

The development comes days after Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said his government would form a ‘Rehmatul-lil-Aalameen (blessing for all the worlds) Authority,’ which would portray the true image of Islam, research the life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), monitor the media and keep an eye on school curriculum. 

The prime minister made the announcement of the new authority last week at a conference in Islamabad that marked the start of the Islamic month of Rabi-ul-Awwal, which holds special significance for Muslims who observe the 12th of the month as Mawlid Al-Nabi, the birth day of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). 

He had said the proposed authority would comprise Islamic scholars of international repute who would help familiarize children and elders to the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and tell the world, particularly the West, that Islam was a religion of love and humanity. 

The government has already been looking for the head of the body, having a vast knowledge of the life of Prophet (PBUH) and relevant publications to his credit. It has now appointed Dr. Sarwar the head of “Directorate General of Religious Education.” 

“Dr. Ghulam Sarwar has assumed the charge of the post of Project Director (PPS-12), ‘Establishment of Directorate General of Religious Education’ under Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training, Islamabad,” the Pakistani education ministry said in a notification on Wednesday. 

Sarwar has been appointed on a contractual basis until June 2022, it said. 

Addressing the conference on October 10, PM Khan said he himself would be a “patron” of the Rehmatul-lil-Aalameen Authority, which would “monitor” school curriculum. 

“[Scholars] will monitor how [children] are studying, does that [curriculum] need any changes. There will be discussion among scholars,” he said at the time. 

The authority will “conduct research in universities” and suggest what changes were required to bring society in lines with Islam, he added.


Pakistan's Sindh makes booster dose compulsory after new COVID-19 variant discovery

Updated 28 November 2021

Pakistan's Sindh makes booster dose compulsory after new COVID-19 variant discovery

  • Omicron strain spread across globe on Sunday shutting borders and renewing curbs
  • The highly infectious strain has cast doubt on global efforts to battle the pandemic

KARACHI: The government in Pakistan’s southeastern Sindh province has decided to make a booster dose of coronavirus vaccine compulsory for the fully vaccinate people after the discovery of the new Omicron strain of COVID-19, local media reported on Sunday. 
The new, heavily mutated COVID-19 variant spread across the globe on Sunday, shutting borders and renewing curbs as the European Union chief said governments faced a “race against time” to understand the strain. 
Indonesia announced similar entry restrictions on Sunday and Angola became the first southern African country to suspend all flights from its regional neighbors Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa. 
The Omicron strain has cast doubt on global efforts to battle the pandemic because of fears that it is highly infectious, forcing countries to reimpose measures many had hoped were a thing of the past. 
On Sunday, the Sindh health department announced that fully vaccinated individuals would be administered a booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine to prevent the spread of the new virus strain, Urdu-language Jang newspaper reported. 
“Booster jabs are currently being administered at Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center and Dow University of Health Sciences Ojha Campus [in Karachi], but the scale of vaccination will be expanded across the province,” the report quoted Sindh Health Secretary Zulfiqar Ali Shah as saying. 
No fee would be charged for the administration of the booster jab and the government was importing consignments of the vaccine for the purpose, the official said. 
Shah requested fully vaccinated individuals to get the booster jab and advised those who were yet to get the basic vaccination to get themselves fully immunized against the virus. 
The development came a day after Pakistan imposed a complete ban on travel from seven countries after the emergence of the Omicron strain in South Africa. These countries included South Africa, Hong Kong, Mozambique, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini and Botswana. 
The National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), the country’s central pandemic body, has asked aviation authorities to devise a mechanism for the screening of passengers traveling from these states through indirect flights. 
It said Pakistani passengers would be allowed to travel after obtaining emergency exemptions and following certain requirements, including a vaccination certificate, negative PCR report and rapid antigen test on arrival. 


Vets who helped rescue Kaavan arrive in Pakistan to examine another four elephants

Updated 28 November 2021

Vets who helped rescue Kaavan arrive in Pakistan to examine another four elephants

  • Animal rights activists earlier this year moved Sindh High Court to order inspection of these elephants in Karachi
  • Dr. Amir Khalil, who leads the team of international experts, says elephants at Safari Park seem ‘physically fit’

KARACHI: Almost a year after Kaavan was rescued to a sanctuary in Combodia, a team that had examined the “world’s loneliest elephant” arrived in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi on Sunday to assess health of four other elephants, which animal rights activists say were not being kept in proper conditions. 
Kaavan was the last Asian elephant in captivity in Pakistan. The 36-year-old bull elephant was kept at Islamabad’s dilapidated zoo. Animal rights groups launched a campaign to save him from the substandard conditions there, which was boosted by spirited social media support from US actress and musician Cher. The elephant was rescued to a sanctuary in Combodia on November 30, 2020. 
The team comprising international veterinarians and wildlife experts from FOUR PAWS, a Vienna-based global animal welfare organization, began assessing health of African elephants, Malika and Sonu, at Karachi’s Safari Park. The experts will examine health of Noor Jehan and Madhubala, two other African elephants kept at Karachi Zoo, on Monday and submit their assessment report to a court on Tuesday. According to officials, these are the last four African elephants left in Pakistan. 

A team comprising international veterinarians and wildlife experts from FOUR PAWS, a Vienna-based global animal welfare organization, visit Safari Park in Karachi, Pakistan on November 28, 2021. (AN Photo/S.A. Babar) 

In September, the Sindh High Court (SHC), while hearing a petition by animal rights activists, granted permission to Dr. Frank Goritz, the head veterinarian at Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW), to visit Pakistan to inspect heath of these elephants. The petitioners had moved the court after a video showed cracks in Malika’s foot. 
The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) had opposed the move and pleaded with the court that the inspection be carried out by vets from Lahore Zoo and the Sindh Agriculture University. But the court rejected the KMC’s plea. 
On Sunday, Dr. Amir Khalil led a team of veterinarians and wildlife experts, including Dr. Frank Goritz and Prof Thomas Hildebrandt from IZW and Dr. Marina Ivanova from FOUR PAWS, which concluded its examination of two elephants. The experts were amazed that Sonu, whom the authorities said was a male and brought especially for breeding purpose, turned out to be a female. 

A team comprising international veterinarians and wildlife experts from FOUR PAWS, a Vienna-based global animal welfare organization, assesses health condition of elephants at Safari Park in Karachi, Pakistan on November 28, 2021. (AN Photo/S.A. Babar)

Dr. Khalil told Arab News the elephants seemed “physically fit” and the space for keeping them was “also good,” but a complete assessment could only be shared after full examination, tests, body measurement and ultrasound of the animals. 
“Tomorrow, we will examine two more elephants at Karachi Zoo and then make a report for submission in the court on Tuesday,” Dr. Khalil said, adding the experts will make recommendations for local officials for the upkeep of animals. 

Dr. Khalil believed though the space was good, there was still room for improvement, saying local officials extended all required support to them. 
“Here we are neutral, we are not for right or left, but we give just facts, what we see and observe. This is our version and to give some recommendations what can improve conditions for the animals,” he said. 
“I think there is some enrichment we can recommend to make the space more interesting for the elephants.” 

A team comprising international veterinarians and wildlife experts from FOUR PAWS, a Vienna-based global animal welfare organization, assesses health condition of elephants at Safari Park in Karachi, Pakistan on November 28, 2021. (AN Photo/S.A. Babar)

Following the assessment, the experts would propose their recommendations to representatives of the high court, who would take the results into further consideration. 
Irfan Salam, director coordination to the Karachi administrator, told Arab News the elephants were kept in “really good conditions” and provided “Tanzania-like habitats,” however, the KMC would welcome any recommendations for further improvement in their living conditions. 
“We welcome the international experts and don’t challenge their judgment as they are highly qualified experts. We will be happy to implement their recommendations and would like them to visit after six months so see the status of implementation,” Salam said. 
“The elephants are kept in really good conditions and great space, which we will further enhance as we plan to utilize around 100 acres of vacant land to improve Safari Park.” 

The pictures shows an elephant at Safari Park in Karachi, Pakistan on November 28, 2021. (AN Photo/S.A. Babar)

Dr. Khalil earlier thanked the SHC for trusting their expertise and said they were happy to support the authorities in making sure these elephants received “species-appropriate care.” 
“We will perform medical examinations on all four elephants, check their feet and assess their keeping conditions. We are also bringing medicine and equipment and are ready to treat the elephants in case any urgent medical action is needed. We hope to support the national authorities in finding a species-appropriate solution for these elephants,” he had said in a statement prior to the visit. 
“FOUR PAWS is ready to also provide assistance and help to other animals at the zoos, if needed and permitted by the local authorities.” 


UAE opens one of Asia's 'largest' visa centers in Pakistan's Karachi

Updated 28 November 2021

UAE opens one of Asia's 'largest' visa centers in Pakistan's Karachi

  • Visa centre will provide distinguished consular services in line with international standards, says UAE consul-general
  • Emirati Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al-Nahyan inaugurated the centre on Sunday

ISLAMABAD: UAE Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al-Nahyan on Sunday inaugurated a new visa center in the southern Pakistani port city of Karachi, Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported. 
Sindh Governor Imran Ismail and UAE Consul-General in Karachi Dr. Salem Al-Khaddeim Al-Dhanhani attended the inauguration ceremony of the new “modernized” visa center in Pakistan’s largest megapolis and commercial hub. 
Several senior officials of the Sindh government, business persons and media personnel were also present on the occasion. 
Addressing the attendees, Al-Dhanhani commended the “solid historic relations between the UAE and Pakistan since the era of the founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan,” the WAM report read. 
“The visa center, one of the largest in Asia, will provide distinguished consular services in line with the latest international standards,” he was quoted as saying. 
The center comes as part of the framework to provide all administrative services aimed at improving the level of customer service and issuing visas to facilitate the entry of Pakistanis into the UAE through electronic gates at the ports, according to the UAE consul-general. 
More than 1.6 million Pakistani expatriates live in the UAE and work in different public and private sectors, who remit over $4 billion to Pakistan annually. 
With the inauguration of a modernized visa center in Karachi, Pakistan and the UAE have laid “strong foundations of bilateral relations, friendship and cooperation over the years,” Governor Ismail said on Twitter. 

 


Taijul puts Pakistan in a spin after Ali’s hundred

Updated 28 November 2021

Taijul puts Pakistan in a spin after Ali’s hundred

  • The hosts bowled out Pakistan for 286 on the stroke of tea on the third day to take a 44-run lead into the second innings 
  • Pakistani batsman Ali made 133 off 282 balls, holding one end for Pakistan for a long stretch 

CHITTAGONG: Taijul Islam claimed his ninth five-wicket haul to put Bangladesh on top in the first Test against Pakistan on Sunday despite Abid Ali’s century.
The hosts bowled out Pakistan for 286 on the stroke of tea on the third day to take a 44-run lead into the second innings thanks to the mesmerising bowling of Taijul, who finished with 7-116.
Ali made 133 off 282 balls, holding one end for Pakistan for a long stretch after Taijul’s early strike of two wickets in two balls in the day’s first over.
Faheem Ashraf added 38 late in the innings to keep Pakistan in contention before he was last man dismissed.
Pakistan, who resumed on 145-0 and looked poised for a big total, suffered a setback very early when Taijul trapped debutant Abdullah Shafique leg-before on his fifth ball.
Shafique left without adding to his overnight 52, and Taijul took Azhar Ali for a duck in the very next ball when the delivery hit him on the foot.
Azhar was initially given not out but the decision was reversed on review.
Babar Azam saw off the hat-trick ball in Taijul’s next over but did not survive long.
Mehidy uprooted his off-stump with a straight delivery after the Pakistan skipper made only 10 runs.
Taijul grabbed his third wicket when he beat Fawad Alam with spin to remove the batsman for eight.
Bangladesh sought a review after the umpire turned down a confident caught-behind appeal.
The replay indicated the ball took a feather touch on Alam’s glove, ending his brief stay at the crease.
Ali, who struck 12 fours and two sixes, was also lucky to survive after he was dropped at slip by Najmul Hossain off Taijul at 113.
He was dropped again by Yasir Ali at forward short leg on 133 but it did not cost Bangladesh much, with Taijul taking him leg before two balls later.
His dismissal cruelled Pakistan’s chance of a comeback, having already lost Mohammad Rizwan to Ebadot Hossain, who bowled 2-47. 


Unable to return to China, thousands of Pakistani students fear losing degrees

Updated 28 November 2021

Unable to return to China, thousands of Pakistani students fear losing degrees

  • Approximately 28,000 Pakistani students are enrolled in Chinese educational institutions
  • China suspended the entry of foreigners in March 2020 to stop the spread of COVID-19

ISLAMABAD: Over a year into the pandemic, Pakistani students say they fear losing their qualifications from Chinese universities, as thousands of them remain stranded at home, unable to return to classes despite the government’s assurance of constant negotiations with Beijing.
Approximately 28,000 Pakistani students are enrolled in Chinese educational institutions and most of them have been stuck in Pakistan since China suspended the entry of foreign nationals in late March 2020 to stop the spread of COVID-19.
For more than a year, the Pakistani government has been saying it remains in touch with Chinese authorities to help the students return to their colleges and universities, but some of them are already on the verge of losing hope.
“We are hopeless and fearful that our money, time is wasted, and future is at stake,” Aroosa Khan, a Karachi-based student who has completed two years of medicine in China, told Arab News on Saturday.
“We are around 7,000 medical students in China, out of which above 85 percent are now stuck in Pakistan due to travel ban,” she said, expressing worry that they would not be able to become good doctors if they cannot practice at university hospitals and clinical labs.
As Pakistan does not recognize medical degrees obtained from online courses, which have been provided by Chinese institutes to overseas students due to the travel ban, Khan said years of studies and thousands of dollars spent on education may go into vain.
“It is not our fault that we have been compelled to take virtual classes. Majority of these medical students are on self-financing where their families had spent around Rs5 million ($28,000),” she added. “They are under acute stress and have become patients of depression due to uncertainty hovering over their future.”
The worries of medical students are shared by those enrolled in engineering courses.
Adam Ali from Attock, who is pursuing a degree in artificial intelligence at a Chinese university, said they had exhausted all avenues to seek help.
“We have met everyone in foreign office, foreign minister, education minister and all other officials but nothing happened despite tall claims. When we write to Pakistani embassy in China, they even didn’t respond to our emails,” he told Arab News.
“When this travel ban was imposed and we started online classes, at that we were ensured by our foreign office that we will be able to travel back to China through chartered flights for next semester by the end of July 2020. But nothing happened.”
Another engineering student, Jamal Nasir from Sialkot, said he had left his job to pursue a master’s degree with a Chinese university scholarship, but as online classes were introduced that facility was discontinued.
“I had a good job but have left it to pursue my master’s on a scholarship, which included a monthly stipend. After resumption of online classes, they have stopped (the) stipend as well, which created lot of financial issues,” he said. “Now neither I have job nor completing my studies due to travel ban.”
As students from some other countries, including South Korea, were allowed back to Chinese campuses in August 2020 as part of intergovernmental deals, Nasir asked why it was not possible for Pakistanis to follow suit.
“If they want, they can impose quarantine and other standard restrictions but at least allow professional degree students to take physical classes,” he said.
The Pakistani government says it is trying to resolve the issue.
“The issue has been discussed at various levels with the Chinese authorities both in Beijing and Islamabad,” foreign office spokesperson Asim Iftikhar told Arab News.
“We are also exploring the possibility of addressing the issues of research, lab work, scholarship etc. with the relevant Pakistani and Chinese authorities and institutions,” he said. “We are pursuing the matter and are continuously in touch with the Chinese side at all levels.”
The Chinese embassy in Islamabad told Arab News it had “nothing to comment on the matter at this time.”